Srivanchinathar temple, Srivanchiyam, TN where Lord Shiva's vahana (mount) is ''Yama'', the god of death!!

Though there are  thousands of  Hindu temples  across India dedicated to many gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, there is none whatsoever  for the god of death, Yama.  Here at Srivanchisvara Swamy temple, Srivanchiyam, TN Yama is honored with a separate shrine and  and puja is done to him on a regular basis.  Brahmandam, Skandam, Samboban and Agneya Puranas speak, at length, of the sanctity of this temple. 

The Sri Vanchinadha Swamy temple  in Srivanchiyam village, Thiruvarur distract of Tamil Nadu is  a popular Hindu temple on the banks of the river Cauvery dedicated to Lord Shiva who goes by the name of Sri Vanchinathar Swany or Vanchinathar. It is about 6 km from the small town Nannilam off Nachiyarkovil-Nagapatnam Highway.  Here, his consort is Mangalanayagi. Built by the famous Chola ruler king  Rajendra Chola in the year 850 CE, this 1100 year old temple has a unique mount/vahana for the lord. It is that of Demigod Yama  who is in charge of death and justice and he has a separate shrine/sannidhi  here. The main tower -gopuram is 110 feet tall.

Sri Vanchinadha Swamy temple ,Srivanchiyam, Tiruvarur distt. TN.

The tradition of this temple has been that devotees visit the main temple  after  taking  a bath in Gupta Thertham and then worshipping  God Yama first, a deviation from the standard tradition whereby devotees worship God Ganapathi first.  The main features of this temple  are  the presence of two stone carved  nandis (bulls), one after the other  on the east side and one on the west  before the sanctum and lord's vahana is not the bull, but it is Yama Dharma Raja. The temple therthams are Yama theertham and Gupta Ganga Theertha.
Lord Yama -  demigod of death.

Yama as vahana, Srivanchiyam, Tamil Nadu. Dinamalar Temple
Devotees, in large numbers, visit this temple  and conduct Pithru Tharpanam  to secure salvation for their forefathers (pithrus). It is believed that people who die in Srivanchiyam get the blessings of God Shiva and get Moksha (salvation); they get eternal bliss under the shadow of the lord. They won't be haunted by birth and death cycles. As death is sacred here, visiting this  temple is as good as visiting  Sri Viswanath temple of Kasi (Varanasi). It is a common practice among the Hindu temples  to close the temple when a dead body is carried past the temple, but here, the temple is wide open. Besides, on the day of solar or  lunar eclipse, the temple is open, yet another deviation from the common tradition of other Hindu temples.
 Thirthavari Utsavam - the purani episode of God Vanchiswar Swami appearing before demi God of death Yama -in Kirthaatha kundam  on Tamil  month of Masi -Bharani accepting Yama's fervent desire to be the lord's mount/vahana - is a great event at this temple celebrated with dedication  and intense devotion. This annual event is played out at Gandharranya Kshetram (a place full of sandalwood trees) as part of Masi Mahaotsavam which took place recently. The God's procession with Yama as his Vahana is taken around the temple - all through the four Mada streets. In no other place will you  see God Yama acting as the mount of God Shiva, the cosmic dancer.

Yama, once caused the untimely death of sage Markandaya over which many celestial and sages got angry as God Yama did injustice to Markandaya. Depressed as he was, God Yama wanted to get himself absolved of his sin by making amends. So, Yama came to Srivanchiyam created ''Yama Kundam'' and began to meditate on God Shiva.  Pleased with his gesture, lord appeared on  Masi Bharani and granted him the honor of being his Vahana.  Every year on the second day of  Masi Mahotsavam, Vanchinatha Swamy, with his vahana, Yama is taken in a procession around the Mada streets.

Yet another interesting but rare feature of this temple is both Raghu and Ketu are carved out  in one composite sculpture and like the Ragu's stone image at Sri Thirunageswaram temple near Kumbakonam,  here the stone also turns blue when milk is poured on it as part of puja.  Shiva is in the form of swayambhu linga - self-manifested and is the oldest among the 64 in the world. There is no Navagraha shrine in this temple but for Saneeswara (saturn) who is housed in a niche  A visit to Srivanchiyam will be complete without a darshan of Kalyana Varadaraja Perumal with Sridevi and Bhudevi in the temple, north of Vanchinathar temple.